– This post was originally published on my now-defunct site, New to Comics. –
New to Comics is a segment where I look at various comic-books, explaining their background, reviewing them, and breaking them down for readers unfamiliar to the medium. The title is a reference to a former university project that I carried on as its own site for several years before laying it to rest.
Returning to the Marvel side of things, we’re hitting another classic story. Fans of Netflix’s Daredevil TV series will want to check this out, as it’s set to be the basis for season three. It’s Daredevil: Born Again.
Published by: Marvel Comics
Written by: Frank Miller
Art by: Jack Kirby
Real Name: Mathew Michael Murdock
Affiliation: The Defenders
First Appearance: Daredevil #1 (April 1964)
Even in the early years, Matt Murdock was on the path to becoming an upstanding member of society. His father, Jonathan Murdock – a boxer – was adamant that Matt wouldn’t follow in his footsteps, and pushed him towards a better job, forcing Matthew to study as hard as he could so he could transcend their lowly lifestyle. However, after saving a blind man from a careening truck full of radioactive waste, Matt himself was blinded will his other senses grew exponentially. This was the start of a long list of tragedies in Matt’s life, as his father was later murdered for refusing to throw a fight. Now alone, Matt strove to commemorate Jonathan by becoming a lawyer, while also honing his fighting skills under the tutelage of another blind warrior named Stick. Becoming the masked vigilante known as Daredevil, Matt would fight for justice in the courts by day, while avenging those who the system failed at night.
WHAT’s THE STORY?
Born Again came about due to a change-up in the creative team on Daredevil in the mid-eighties. With writer Denny O’Neil on the way out, acclaimed writer Frank Miller was called upon to return to Daredevil, after a highly successful stint on the character previously with stories such as the introduction of Elektra, and her eventual demise at the hands of one of Daredevil’s arch-enemies, Bullseye.
The ensuing story leaned heavily into Daredevil’s Christianity, and the artwork inside showed a lot of imagery that was reminiscent of the death and rebirth of Jesus Christ.
Decades later, the story is looked back on as perhaps the definitive Daredevil story, and also happens to contain one of the most iconic Captain America lines, to boot (he makes an appearance later on in the story for a few issues. Iron Man and Thor are also briefly featured).
WHAT’s THE PLOT?
The plot of Born Again sees the return of one of Daredevil’s great loves, Karen Page. Having severely lost her way, Karen is now a drug addict and has starred in various pornographic films in Mexico. Now desperate for her next fix, Karen sells off Daredevil’s secret identity in return for a score.
This information trades hands, eventually landing in the palm of the notorious Kingpin of Crime. With this information, the Kingpin sets about the systematic destruction of Daredevil and Matt Murdock, destroying his standing, his relationships, his home and his heritage, driving Murdock to the brink of insanity.
IS IT ACCESSIBLE?
Daredevil’s not unlike Batman, really. He’s generally depicted as a dark and brooding character; conflicted, but generally speaking, fairly simple. And I’ve generally found, when reading a Daredevil comic, the only thing I’m usually missing is whatever girlfriend he’s currently with – what with him being a bit of a womanizer.
Here, however, that isn’t so much of an issue – if you have a basic knowledge of Daredevil or have watched the Netflix show, then you’ll probably know who Karen Page is, and the other love interest who appears in this story is, by the end, of little consequence to Daredevil himself.
It’s not all about women though, and everything else in this story is fairly self-explanatory. His origin, motivations, family and friends are touched upon multiple times throughout the story, and his character is pretty thoroughly examined as he goes through the mother of all deconstructions.
WHAT’s THE VERDICT?
The back cover of the collected edition of Daredevil: Born Again makes the rather bold claim that it is the definitive Daredevil story. And to be honest, after reading it, it’s hard to argue with that.
As I said previously, it’s reader-friendly and yet is very obviously takes place way into Daredevil’s various adventures. It’s perfectly dark and brooding, as one might expect from a Daredevil or Batman story (not that all Daredevil and Batman stories are dark and brooding, but it’s kind of their thing). Really dark, in fact. Like something that’d be ripe for a poor adaptation as part of the DC Extended Universe (zing, got ’em!).
Furthermore, it’s not overwhelmed by appearances from various super-powered heroes. In fact, bar a brief cameo from Thor and Iron Man, the only super-powered beings present are Daredevil (obviously), Captain America and Cap’s antithesis Nuke (who Netflix viewers may be vaguely familiar with from his adaptation in Jessica Jones) – who themselves, in the comics, anyway, really lean closer to ‘human’ than ‘superhuman’.
As such, the threat of the Kingpin, without a mass of goons swanning around every issue, seems very realistic, and the psychological warfare the two enter into is a nice respite from the constant explosions and laser-blasting that you may find in other superhero comic-books (although there is some of that in here if that’s what you’re in to).
Considering it’s ‘the definitive Daredevil story’, it’s a shame to say, looking at it with a contemporary eye, the art isn’t anything to write home about. It’s good, no doubt. And there are some memorable shots sprinkled throughout, but for the most part, it’s very ‘eighties’ – similar in style to a mass of other artists from that era, and less varied or creative than the artwork you might find in a comic now.
Considering the strength of the writing, however, that’s not too much of an issue. It’s a solid deconstruction and character study, an excellent showcase of the might of the Kingpin, and it doesn’t stray away from the fact that, when things start getting big and blown out, other superheroes are obviously going to start getting involved.